Still a Terrorist Threat to Rabbi Ovadia

Despite the recent arrest of members of a terror cell planning to murder Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, security officials remain concerned.

, | updated: 12:46

It appears the number of cell members is large and the threat to the former chief rabbi continues.

According to an exclusive report in the weekly Mishpacha news magazine, General Security Services (GSS) concerns have compelled the rabbi, spiritual leader of the Shas party, to remain inaccessible.

Yesterday, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin sent a letter to Cabinet Secretary Yisrael Maimon expressing concerns for Rabbi Ovadia Yosef's safety. Rivlin reminded Maimon of the recent plot to murder the rabbi that was uncovered shortly before it was to have been executed. The Knesset speaker called on state agencies to step up security for the prominent figure, in compliance with demands by Shas officials. Rabbi Yosef maintains a high public profile due to his continued involvement in the political arena, Shas officials said, hosting the highest government ministers in his Jerusalem home.

MK Rivlin's letter comes following a meeting he held with the former chief rabbi last month. Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres also met with Rabbi Yosef last month and promised to raise the security issue with GSS officials.

The three Arabs arrested in the foiled assassination plot, residents of northern Jerusalem, are members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terrorist group, and affiliated with the cell that carried out the 2001 assassination of Tourism Minister Rechavam Ze'evi in a Jerusalem hotel.

At the time of the announcement of the arrests, Police Superintendent Shmuel Ben-Amos said that the terrorists already had the guns for the planned assassination in hand, and had selected a date and escape route. They planned to target Rabbi Yosef during the early morning hours, when the elderly Torah scholar leaves his home in Jerusalem's Har Nof neighborhood.

GSS officials also recently disclosed that one of the cell members in custody, who was employed as a delivery person for a local Jerusalem fruit store, had been in the rabbi's home making deliveries no less than twenty times. Having been planted in the fruit store, he gained access to Rabbi Yosef's home and was able to study its layout, as well as the rabbi's routine, in preparation for the murder.

In 2001, Lebanese Sheikh Afif Al-Nabulsi, close to Hizbullah and Iran, offered one million dollars "to the one who will punish rabbis Yisrael Meir Lau and Ovadia Yosef.... These two rabbis are two snakes. Muslims in general, and Palestinians in particular, are called upon to exterminate these microbes, which tarnish the surface of the earth," Al-Nabulsi said.